There’s a trait that Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel has that his predecessors didn’t necessarily possess (at least not on a regular basis).


Jeremy Pruitt, who preceded Heupel as the Vols’ head coach, reminded me a bit of Eeyore, the Winnie the Pooh character was who was known for being pessimistic and gloomy.

Pruitt always seemed frustrated with his teams. Sure, there were bits of positivity that came from Pruitt, but for the most part, the former UT head coach seemed like he was in a state of dysphoria during his press conferences.

Butch Jones, who coached the Vols from 2013-2017, wasn’t an anhedonic presence at Tennessee. But he still brought plenty of negativity.

Jones constantly made excuses for why UT wasn’t competing (or winning) in the SEC during his tenure. He chose to focus on Tennessee’s lack of depth, the youth of the team, or injuries. There was always an excuse from Jones ready to go. And instead of being positive, it felt like he was constantly preparing fans for a letdown.

Heupel, however, sounds much more positive as the Vols’ head coach.

Sure, he’s acknowledged that depth is an issue for the Vols in 2021. But he doesn’t harp on it. He answers the questions truthfully and moves on to something more positive.

We saw an example of that on Monday during Heupel’s weekly press conference when he was asked about Tennessee’s depth along the offensive line.

“At that position (offensive line), we’re thinner there than you would want to be, but I think the guys have grown tremendously, especially the guys in our starting five have started to grow,” said Heupel.

Heupel also sounded positive while talking about Tennessee’s depth at wide receiver, despite the team’s inexperience at the position.

“There is some depth there,” explained Heupel. “We got some young guys who are doing well like JaVonta (Payton) and Jalin Hyatt who were hurt for a portion of spring ball and have started to grasp what we’re doing. I think we can play five or six guys in a game and they all can compete and play at a high level.”

Heupel is a smart guy. He knows the challenge that he faces at Tennessee.

But he also understands that fans are smart, too. The fans understand those challenges. And the fans don’t want to hear excuses after a close loss.

I’m sure Heupel will offer some reasons for losses that will sound like excuses from time to time. That’s just how it goes in general with coaches. Mostly, though, we’re going to hear Heupel strike a positive tone as he tries to turn the Vols’ football program around.

Featured image via Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services/USA TODAY